Atcq rushmore finish v 2 2
Atcq rushmore finish v 2 2

The Secret History of A Tribe Called Quest’s Final Album

On Wednesday evening, New York City's music community came together in the VW Dome at Queens PS 1 museum to hear A Tribe Called Quest’s final album We’ve Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service for the first time. The assembled congregation comprised a who’s who of culture warriors including DJs, A&Rs, hip-hop journalists and most of the Okayplayer and Okayafrica staff as well Tribe’s extended family, management team and reps from Epic Records—all of whom had woken up that morning to learn that the KKK’s preferred candidate swept the crucial battleground states to win the electoral vote, becoming the President-Elect of the United States.

Woken up, that is, assuming they had slept at all in the previous 24 hours. The emotions people brought with them into that room ranged from shock to despondency to anger to a surreal, punch-drunk sense of disconnection. It is safe to say that everyone present welcomed the moment of community, if only to reaffirm their sanity by commiserating with old friends over a world that seemed to have lost its damn mind overnight. It’s also safe to say that the expectations placed on the music we were all about to hear were crazily, dizzily, high. They were probably dangerously high right from the moment the existence of a new ATCQ album was confirmed—the return of a game-changing force in music 18 years in the making. A reunion embarked upon on the very eve of one member’s untimely passing. But in that moment of post-election shock, most everyone in the room, consciously or not, rationally or not, was asking even more of A Tribe Called Quest. Most of us were looking to Tribe’s music to—if not save the damn world—then certainly to restore order to our little universe.

Impossibly, against all odds, as the first few bars of their track “Space Program” came on, A Tribe Called Quest delivered the bars, recorded months previously, that expressed exactly what everyone in that room needed to hear: “We got to get it together forever / Got to get it together for brothers / got to get it together for sisters / For mothers and fathers and dead n****s… We got to make something happen.”

All of which is to say that if you had to quickly sum up this album in a single word, if, say, you needed to email it to someone urgently, the single word subject line of that email would doubtless be: “important.” Important not just in a musicological sense (it is that) because A Tribe Called Quest’s album turns out to be less of a grand opus proclaiming the peak of the group’s sonic evolution, and much more a living document of the collective spirit and the simple, selfless camaraderie that gave the group life in the first place.

The musical groups we idolize—whether we imagine them as starship crews, cliques of cool kids or nomadic bands of hippie outlaws—are in some sense models of who we want to be, our ideal group-selves if you will. For that reason, nothing hurts a true devotee of hip-hop more than surveying the catalogue of pioneering progressive artists of a certain era who preached unity yet couldn’t keep their little 2 and 3-man crews together. This is why this audio record of Busta Rhymes, Consequence, JarobiAli Shaheed Muhammad and—at it’s center—Phife Dawg and Q-Tip—rediscovering their chemistry line by line, celebrating the fierce joy of brotherhood as they spar in the creative mock combat of friends pushing each other toward excellence—is so important. It is a blueprint for how to get it together.

All of which is simply to frame why recording—in the moment—the history of this album is also important. For many of us, this album will be intertwined with a capital-H in History. We will remember that Tribe reunited on The Tonight Showthe day after the Paris bombings. We will always remember where we were when we got the news that Phife Dawg was no longer among us. We will remember that we first heard this album while we were still trying to fathom the phrase ‘President Trump’. But the history of the creation itself—the process, the obstacles, the bubble and hiss of group chemistry, the decision to put out a new album at all—may be even more important. Because whether you are listening from within this moment of national division and pessimism, or listening outside of time, they are notes on how to get it right--and how to get it back right when it’s gone wrong.

Key members of A Tribe Called Quest’s inner circle provided the Secret History that follows, including our founder Questlove of The Roots, arguably Tribe’s #1 fan, who presided over their reunion on Jimmy Fallon’s set, Phife’s manager and best friend Dion Liverpool AKA DJ Rasta Root, his widow Deisha Taylor and Q-Tip’s longtime friend and Beats 1 collaborator Gary Harris (better known to many as “the man who signed D’Angelo”). Additionally, Q-Tip, Busta, Jarobi and Cons shared more insights and anecdotes about the album’s creation in conversation with Omar Dubois at the PS1 listening session.

Read on to receive the lessons their stories revealed.

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Photo of A Tribe Called Quest taken by Shayan Asgharnia for Okayplayer.

Tribe Was Slowly Reforming Even Before The Fallon Appearance


“I heard rumors of this record way before they came to Fallon. At first it was just the reunion and there was a rumor that they might be getting back together—I thought just for the purpose of celebrating the first two records, because they were in such close proximity, within a few weeks of each other. I had no idea that there was a new album until after.

I was talking to D’Angelo that night and he was like being real, real quiet about something, but he wouldn’t confirm it. He was like, 'I can’t tell you.' And I said 'Dog, are they getting back together and I don’t know it??' He’s like 'I can’t tell you.' I’m like, 'You tell me everything!' He’s still like, 'Can’t tell you.' By then I’m like, 'Wait have you heard something? You heard something didn’t you? I...HOLY SHIT THEY ARE GETTING BACK TOGETHER?!' [laughs] That’s how I first heard about. But I had to keep that secret. Hard to do."

Rasta Root:

"They had done press all week [before the Fallon show] for the 25th Anniversary of People’s Instinctive Travels, so I think it was reminiscent of when they were a crew, hanging out together and promoting the first few albums. The energy was the same and they were joking and vibing. We were up at Sirius Satellite and they were all just joking like old friends and I think each of them were affected by that opportunity to hang out in a productive environment, not just coming together for shows every couple years, which is what it had been.

I was excited because [Phife] was light, he’ll joke a lot more when he’s feeling comfortable and he was joking a lot."


Fallon Sealed The Deal

Rasta Root:

"[Phife] was very excited [for The Jimmy Fallon Show]. He’s the type of person who’s very quiet offstage and as it goes towards showtime it can go one of two ways: Either he gets kinda ill and feels a little sick before...just nerves, I’ve been to shows where he’s puked a little bit. Or he’s just really focused."


"[That night] the chemistry was just there. Literally, there was no trace of the tension that was in the third part of that documentary [Beats, Rhymes & Life] and the fact that they let us do that was such an amazing moment."

Q-Tip [speaking at Tribe’s listening session]:

"The performance that we had that night kinda spirited us to get in the studio. The vibe and the energy we felt like back in the days."

Rasta Root:

"It’s funny, Tip wasn’t there for soundcheck before Fallon, so I kinda stood in for him for blocking and placement. It was kinda cool to be on the 'Tonight Show' and just to see the energy onstage of the group and how it would feel to be in that environment, of a group that’s made classics that have literally changed people’s lives.

I rapped Tip’s part as much as I could. I wasn’t as rambunctious as Tip is on stage so that probably didn’t help them as far as blocking!

There’s very small rooms back there, they’re not even green-rooms, they’re dressing rooms, so we had like 10 people— just guests, PR people, label reps, friends of friends and girlfriends. I think being on that show itself is magic. People grew up watching that show, their parents watched that show. But with them being together in that tiny room, I remember when [OKP photographer, Shayan Asgharnia] was taking pictures with all four of them in there, that was like, wow they’re here together. It’s kinda weird, even though you see them together on stage... there was something different about it. As a fan of the group, to see that was pretty incredible."

Busta Rhymes [speaking at Tribe’s listening session]:

"That night it was a tearjerker for me, because that’s the first time I saw all my brothers onstage happy. It put a super battery in my back. The next day at the party for 25th Anniversary for People’s Instinctive Travels [at Santos Partyhouse] Kamaal was DJing and it was super sardine-packed crowded in there. Jarobi and me went to fuck with Kamaal in the DJ booth and started talking about the Tribe reunion happening, talking about the Tribe album needed to start happening and that was the first time Q-Tip said, ‘A-ight I’m with it.’ I thought he was bullshittin. I did. I thought it was just in the moment. But the next day he was still saying he’s with it, so that’s when I knew shit was on and poppin’."

Rasta Root:

"It was actually the day after [Fallon] when they spoke about it. Phife told me that the guys had reached out and wanted him to be part of a project; they wanted to record and Tip felt it was the right time. Jarobi was all on board Ali was all on board. Phife was a little hesitant you know, That’s just how he is as an individual. He was probably the last to say, 'You know what let’s go, let’s do it.' Once he said that, it just started flowing from there, they started getting timetables together, when we were going to be able to go to Jersey to record."

Deisha Taylor [Phife's wife]:

"[Phife] was really excited. He wasn’t 100 percent sure it was going to happen, so he just came home thinking, 'We’re talking about doin’ an album, I’m not sure if it’s gonna happen... but if it does, then that’s cool and I’m down to do it.' That was the initial conversation and then maybe a few days later they started having phone conversations about the album. So he started making plans to travel to New York to start recording."

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

Busta Played A Bigger Role Than He’s Copped To

Rasta Root:

"The other moment [that was key] was Busta’s show in Jersey, which was technically the last time that Phife performed with this group— also the first time they performed the 'Scenario' remix together. That was the first trip we came to Jersey to record and we said, 'Hey if we’re getting flown up for Busta with his show, let’s just stay a few days and see what the vibe’s like.' We ended up doing that and it worked out perfect.

Busta was there from, if not the first one, then the trip after, which was a week later. Because I remember I told him how incredible the show was and how he pulled that shit together.

He was there for a lot of the sessions, and in true Busta form, just by being there, his presence is so overwhelming you have no choice but to give him headphones and let him sit in front of a mic. He said, 'I’m not leaving without being on one of these records. And he wasn’t lying!' [laughs]

The one that stood out to me, one of the last sessions Phife did there, if not the last one, was him, Tip, Busta and they we recording a song, I believe it’s the one that has the Elton John sample. And Busta, his cadence is so robotically crazy. He was doing a verse over and he did it the exact same way— I couldn’t hear the difference, but he was hearing something in his timing that was off. Then he was helping Phife with his lines. Then we took a break and they were doing the Jamaica dialect thing because the verses had that feel to it.

Just the laughs is what I remember, hours and hours of laughs. I think Tip had an old Jamaican film [The Harder They Come] starring Jimmy Cliff. He put it on on purpose as part of the vibes. Just the way they were bouncing off each other was pretty incredible. The amount of talent in the room was crazy and how there was no ego to say, 'No: Phife you can do this better, do it again.' Or 'Tip, nah, nah... like this.' It didn’t matter, they were doing it together. That one stands out to me because it was one of the last nights Phife was in the studio."


It Was Clear From Jump These Were Not Just Sessions


"Phife, no question, he set the tone. He definitely set it off like BONG BONG BONG, you know what I mean?"

Rasta Root:

"Phife recording his solo stuff was good practice. So when he went in the studio he was sharp, he was on his game, unlike other years where there were years or months when he hadn’t recorded, he was working already. So when he got in there, he was ready to go."

Deisha Taylor:

"[Phife] would send me video clips of himself in the studio, with the track playing in the background. And he was really silly, so if he really enjoyed a particular track or a beat he would play it in the background and be bopping his head or making a mean face like, Aww this is nice. I’m digging this, I’m diggin this. And then dance a little bit [laughs]. So that’s how I started hearing bits and pieces of it."

Gary Harris:

"When Tip first started exposing bits and pieces, I was overwhelmed. It was well beyond my expectations, and I’ve been in and out of Tribe and Q-Tip sessions since Beats, Rhymes & Life. I mean, I hear all this shit one way or another. Either I’m in the studio or he plays it for me, so I’m very familiar with the Q-Tip approach and heavily inspired by it. The Low End Theory lead me to sign D’angelo. I’ve studied and dissected and chopped it up with my man since Cotton was King... but that still didn’t prepare me for the depth and the sophistication of what this new record represents."

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

Q-Tip Is The Sonic Architect

Gary Harris:

"Tip is always a crate digger. And Ali, during the course of the recording a great deal of his time was spent scoring Luke Cage, so he wasn’t able to participate in the same way."

Rasta Root:

"Tip had skeleton beats of things he was working on, drum program stuff as well as stuff that he would bring session musicians in to play on. It might just be his process —I’ve never seen him record before— the creation process for him is a long and drawn out process. He takes his time with it, so a lot of the time we were there it was just him figuring out what it was gonna sound like. He’d make a beat and then you’d come back the next time and there’s something totally different about it."


"The fun shit was taking direction from Kamaal, because he had a lot of specifics that he wanted, he knew how he was painting his picture. Sometimes you’d listen to the beat, you be going in one direction and he’d be like, 'Nah. I need you to do it this way.' Then he’ll mumble some shit to you and then when you take that and spit that shit, just taking direction off his mumbles... you’ll come back and he’ll be like, 'That’s the motherfuckin' shit you was post to do.' He was great at bein’ a director for all of us. He was great at just conducting the whole picture."

Rasta Root:

"It was almost like learning to ride a bike again but with a tandem bike with your friend on the back of the bike. How do you do that? And that’s what it was like. Those first trips a lot didn’t get done musically but it was just them readjusting to being back in the studio together. And ultimately, like I told Phife, in the end it’s about trusting each other. I’m gonna trust this person with the next few months of my life."

Gary Harris:

"Q-Tip engineered a good deal of it. He’s kind of a one man band kind of thing, he programmed a lot of it, he’s playing on it, he curated... Tribe is, to a large extent, his vision.

Dave Kennedy and Blair Well were the two main engineers. But the Ab is in the air. He’s a somewhat mysterious presence who you got to really know to be aware of his movements and his get down. There’s Kamaal Fareed, he lives in his house and it’s got several bedrooms, it’s a small mansion. I liken it to living in stately Wayne Manor. And then he goes downstairs into the Batcave and turns into the Ab. He puts on his cape and his utility belt and shit goes down. It’s kinda been that way all along, but he was renting these rooms [to record in] and he was more of a mercenary. Now he has this destination where artists of all kinds—Solange, Busta, Mariah, Nas—they basically ask, 'Can I kick it? How can I get a little of that Abstract dust sprinkled on me?' And he does, prudently. He laces people who he feels inspired by.

Then there’s a third persona he adopts when he performs. And that’s the most public it gets. That’s when the Q-Tip persona takes over and it’s a whole ‘nother thing. The Kamaal-Abstract dynamic is where he’s at most of the time.

But he’s bitten by this shit. He’s one of the dopest producers to ever come out of this thing of ours."


"One thing Phife and I spoke about at length was the importance of maintaining the essence but not getting trapped in that, trying to like see a beyond to it. Because with the beats he always would be quick to be like: Thumbs up, thumbs down. And he would usually be dead on. So we got to keep the thread but we got to like, push it forward.

From a production standpoint, as a DJ listening or Blair Well, he’s my engineer and co-producer, my right hand man, we would listen to shit we like, shit that’s happening now. Like we were listening to 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Queen, then 'Money Trees' by Kendrick and then we’d go to like Rakim. It was just a sonic exercise to hear all of those different records, not to geek out but to hear the common thread, sonically."

Gary Harris:

"During the process of the recording it became obvious that Tribe is a brand, and Tip is a brand, and Tip is sort of a patron and father to his culture. His crib and his vision became a place where veterans saw an opportunity to reinvent themselves, including me and including his reconnection with L.A. Reid. Here you got a whole group of serious veterans who are ready to roll...

...and then Malik died."

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Phife Dawg photographed by Shayan Asgharnia for Okayplayer.

The LP Almost Didn’t Happen After Phife Passed

Gary Harris:

"Shortly after Malik’s death [Tip] was really considering abandoning the task. And then he, I think, became reinvigorated through the community. His house, where the studio is located became a gathering place for the community to come and support him and Tribe and pay tribute to Malik. So that's when Latifah dropped by, Jack White dropped by, Andre 3000 dropped by. Busta was already in the mix. Chris Rock was in and out, Dave Chappelle and on and on and on.

When there’s a recording studio on the premises, hours become very fluid... I was in the house myself from Easter Sunday for eight days straight ‘til the next Sunday. Visitors and mourners were in and out, there was a chef there, preparing people’s meals. Because the wake aspect of the whole thing was at Tip’s house. So you’re seeing old friends. It was a very festive black wake. This one particular evening, I had been in the studio, dining and commiserating, and I got to bed around 3 a.m. And then I got a text from the studio: 'Could you answer the door? The doorbell was ringing and it’s a flashing light downstairs in the studio.' I get to the door and it was Busta coming into drop vocals at 4:20 in the morning.

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Photo of Phife Dawg taken by Dion Liverpool.

I would see Consequence and he would bring his son Jaden through. It was a loose-knit family thing where people weren’t necessarily calling ahead because something was going to be going on in that studio.

All of Phife’s vocals were done but a tremendous amount of recording was done after Phife passed. It wasn’t easy. I mean, my man would call me, he would be mixing vocals and he would be talking until 4 or 5 in the morning on the phone... and he’d be like, 'This is some of the hardest shit I’ve ever done: mixing Phife’s vocals.'

I think he was heartbroken that his lifelong, his Day One was gone. I mean you define yourself... if you’re 'Butch & Sundance,' what happens when Sundance ... gets gone? Are you still Butch? How does it go down?

Not only did Malik pass but Dilla’s gone. Sean Carasov who signed the band, he’s gone. Chris Lighty, their best and most important manager, he’s gone. So it’s a group of people who—I think you don’t really become mature until you begin to understand loss—they know what it is. And when they all get together that knowledge, spoken or unspoken, is always present. Because it’s been a long road."


This Album Did Not Kill, Phife Dawg... It Gave Him New Life

Deisha Taylor [In response to Touré’s New York Times piece, which quotes Jarobi, saying of Phife: “Doing this album killed him”]:

"Naw. I don’t agree with that. Because there were times when Malik was traveling with Rock The Bells with the group... they were traveling every other weekend and he was doing dialysis during the week. [There were other] periods when he could have been stressed out as well. Of course there were times when he was tired or exhausted, but that was normal. To travel, then do dialysis. But that was his normal day-to-day, whether he was there or here at home.

He was perfectly fine, before this happened again. It was really untimely, he had not been hospitalized, he had not been hospitalized in years. He hadn’t been going back and forth to the doctor for anything. He was just doing his day to day, which included dialysis three days a week. He was in good condition. He was fine, health-wise."

Rasta Root:

"I don’t know if that was taken out of context, but just being that I was with him all those times and setting up his clinic visits and all that, Phife was most comfortable onstage, most comfortable around his friends. It kinda invigorated him. Traveling as much as he did, yes, it wore him down but it honestly gave him life to be out there recording and doing what he had to do as a soloist.

His transition is completely unrelated to him being in Jersey, in my opinion. Because he would fly a few hours, have a day break, and then we would go to the house record, go to the clinic. The clinic was right down the street from the hotel. The hotel was maybe 10, 15 minutes from Tip’s house. It wasn’t strenuous. If anything, he was living for himself and he was excited.

We would come back from the studio at three in the morning to the hotel and he’d be in my room, hanging out, talking and I would have to tell him, 'Phife, go to your bed. You, got to get up in a few hours for dialysis.' He had so much energy, I couldn’t keep up. Literally, at times, I told his mom, who is this person? He’s typically either up watching sports or sleeping, but being out there he was full of energy, positive.

I mean (at other times) we went to Europe, and did several dates there. It’s also taxing, to travel 8 or 10 hours and you have to perform the next day, and you have to go and find the clinic. But Phife was like a warrior in that sense, where he was equipped for that sort of thing. You couldn't over-do it because he knew his limits. He knew, look, I can’t land and perform that same day. I have to have a day’s rest. He wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize his wellbeing or his health by just going hard like that.

I don’t know if I would have said what Jarobi said. I didn’t like the title of that article ['Loss Haunts A Tribe Called Quest’s First Album In 18 Years'] and I didn’t like that quote."

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

The Brotherhood is The Brotherhood


"The main difference with us and a lot of rap groups is that a lot are put together when they’re older. We grew up with each other. These guys, since they were two... I came in the neighborhood when I was 11. So the brotherhood extends more than the music. Music is a job that we share in common but the brotherhood is the brotherhood."

Rasta Root:

"I remember first sitting down in the studio, I sat down and I’m excited to be with them. It’s Tip, me and Phife. And Tip’s like: Yo, Roots... can you give me a minute? I wanna hang with my boy. And as much as I wanted to be there, hearing those words... was really, really cool. It was their first time in the studio in years! I just wanted to be there to witness it as a fly on the wall but I also understood and respected that they had to reconnect themselves.

Until the end of one of the first sessions, we were upstairs on the first floor of his house; a couple of the managers, myself, Tip and Phife, talking about plans for the upcoming weeks. And then I heard these footsteps and when I turn around, they were doing these dance moves together. It was like, wow.

The whole process was like seeing a unicorn in front of you. Because I would have bet against them ever being in the studio together again. So, to see them doing old school dances together and laughing and joking was like... they obviously had come to a place where they were just friends again. More than anything, that was the lesson of all this. You can rebuild and re-groove yourself with your friend. That’s what they were working on."

Consequence [speaking at Tribe’s listening session]:

"We knew that night when we were all in the DJ booth and Bus’ had them shots poppin’ ...that night we were on a trek to history. Obviously we suffered a huge loss, and we had to look each other in the eye and recognize our own mortality. We had to say to each other: We here for a purpose...and we a family."

Deisha Taylor:

"Yeah, I definitely felt that night [Phife’s tribute at The Apollo] I felt a different energy. Leaving that, I did feel a sense of unity from everyone. People were glad to see one another, it just seems like the takeaway was: We can’t take things for granted, we’re here for this moment. Our brother passed away so we need to be aware, take care of ourselves, let’s get back to being connected to one another. I feel closer to [the guys in the group] now than I did before. I think we just rallied around each other and support each other due to the circumstances, and I guess it’s just kinda natural for us to become closer and develop a tight bond because of his transition.

I’m not saying that I wasn’t close to them before but they were pretty much Phife’s friends. I didn’t really have to really connect with them unless we were all in the room together. But now that he’s not here, there’s a sense of, let’s make sure we’re all supporting one another during this healing process."


"This is a community record. I know that they’ve all made vows to be closer not take time for granted and that’s what it was like.

The thing that was really missing from The Love Movement and in a lesser way with Beats, Rhymes & Life was... this time I really believe the chemistry. The wordplay of Tip and Phife on 'Space Program' — I believed it. And that’s important, more than anything you got to believe the chemistry and that’s the important shit. Even Busta. Busta sounds like invigorated, inspired and you know, Andre and Consequence. God, even Jarobi!"


"And I know how Tribe fans are. Thes n***gas ain’t gonna hate me, I gotta spit! [laughs] They not gonna hate me, I’m not gonna step my shit up."


"I really didn’t have to explore nothing cause I’m a Tribe member from day one. But the most fun part of this was... nobody don’t sit in a room and write something no more. Everybody write in their little Pro-Tools and then you get the verse back in a email. The beautiful thing about now, is it’s the exact same process as when we did "Scenario," because you’re in the same room, reacting directly to the verse that your man is over there impressin’ himself wit’."


"We done fell into some shit like... it was a point where my man’s wife was there, Tracey Waples. And she walked in and heard Phife and this n***ga Jarobi bouncing on the joint and she pulled me aside and she was like, 'Yo, I don’t know what you doin’ with your pen but these n***as is out for your head. They tryina cook you. I know you got all this extra shit, this radio shit. You better get in your shit because these n***gas is tryina COOK you.'

The spirit of... not just competition but one-upping each other... you know, the woodshed, the 'steel sharpen steel.' All of a sudden the drapings of age-ism and questions of where we’re at, that shit flew out the fucking window. When we fell into science mode, we just locked in and became fucking kids again."

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

There’s Way More Phife Solo Material —and Maybe Q-Tip Solo Material— Yet To Come

Rasta Root:

"Phife told me, no matter what happens with the group or whatever we do with sports or other activities, I’m gonna finish my solo album. He was very adamant about it: I’m not letting anything derail that. Part of the motivation for coming to Jersey was: First, to come together but also being in New York we could get a lot done. We were able to shoot a video in NY. We were able to meet with labels and press and be in ears that we wouldn’t have been able to do had we not been together. In that sense, it was kind of like the perfect balance; nothing they did as a group detracted from what he was trying to do as a soloist and vice versa.

A couple things we didn’t get to finish, he was still recording but we have enough for a full album. He recorded a song called 'Forever' that’s the last thing he recorded before he transitioned. He was in the Bay because the travelling was getting a little too much for us. We said, 'Why don’t you guys send the beats for verses and we’ll record them in Berkeley,' which is close to where he lived. So they did that and once or twice he went to some sessions and I realized he was knocking them out, his rhythm was sharp. He was just on it. He was knocking them out really quickly. This is the session where he recorded his parts for "Dis Generation". So I said, 'Phife being as they’ve booked this time for you, if you finish early let’s start knocking out your songs.' He said, 'Cool, send me the 'Forever' beat.' That was the last song he recorded and it’s probably the deepest record I’ve heard him record. Ever."

Gary Harris:

"Interestingly enough I had been in New York the previous month listening to tracks for what was scheduled to be [Q-Tip’s] next solo record on Def Jam. Then this 25th Anniversary thing came along and swayed the whole process... because working with Tip is like turning around a big oil tanker [laughs]. Nobody can come in and be like, 'Make a left turn right now!' Nobody moves his creative process, but he gradually moves it toward whatever his new objective is, based on whatever his set of inspirations are at a given moment.

Even if you are on your 24-hour hip-hop beat, you might not know what he’s been up to. He’s been in the lab. He might be puttin’ some final touches on some shit right now."

Don't forget to tune into NBC to check out Dave Chappelle + Tribe on Saturday Night Live tonight. Pre-order Tribe's We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service from our OKP Shop!